Lately, there has been much debate about the plan for the new University Medical Center in New Orleans and the proposed benefits of scrapping the long-deliberated efforts to build a new, state-of-the-art facility to succeed Charity Hospital in favor of a proposal to expand existing facilities owned by Tulane University. As the purported merits of this latest idea are still being vetted, one important question is missing from the debate: What about our veterans?

As you may already know, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is in the early stages of rebuilding a new, state-of-the-art VA hospital in downtown New Orleans to replace the former location that was lost in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This new VA hospital and the current UMC plan go hand-in-hand in the form of a unique partnership that has been intended from the beginning. If this plan is abandoned, many of the anticipated benefits to veterans would be compromised.

Per the original plan, the two hospitals were slated to be located directly across the street from one another, making it easy to share space and resources. As both hospitals are to be teaching hospitals, the two can double their influence to recruit top-level medical professionals to maximize their innovative research and treatment potential. Without such close proximity, these and many other benefits will be lost and the long-term care of our veterans and the community at large will lose an important edge.

As a combat-wounded Vietnam War veteran, I am passionate when it comes to supporting our veterans. I believe our veterans have earned the right to receive the highest level of care available. This height can be achieved if the partnership with the new VA hospital and UMC is supported and allowed to reach its full potential, without the delay of deliberation on a plan with limited scope and short-term focus.

Lane A. Carson, secretary

Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs

Baton Rouge